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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: How Moderate Democrats Can Take Advantage of a Republican Coalition in Crisis

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Andy Levison at The Democratic Strategist takes a look at the latest Democracy Corps memo on “What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?“and considers how moderate Democrats can leverage the situation to improve Democratic prospects. Important stuff. As I have frequently noted, the ostentatiously progressive Democrats get the ink but the Democrats’ near-term fate depends much more on how moderate Democrats fare in coming elections.

“While it is almost impossible for many Democrats to seriously imagine that any white Americans could be genuinely afraid of this result, there is no question that it is felt by many white Republicans with complete sincerity. While Democrats envision a progressive future America as being an exciting, culturally and ethnically diverse, multiracial country in which there is general tolerance for diversity, white working class and small town people imagine an elitist society in which they have no place. To understand how this vision can seem entirely plausible, one has only to consider how rarely small town life or manual labor are portrayed positively in TV commercials and other media as part of the golden future that lies ahead. In slick advertisements and magazine spreads “the future” always looks like a world of gleaming office towers, bright young people in bustling urban centers and “country” as a place that people drive to in late model SUVs in order to go rock climbing or mountain biking.

The political implication of this is that moderate Democrats in Red State districts must very sincerely reassure Republicans that they genuinely value and respect the America of small towns, manual labor and the cultural traditions of that world and do not think it all an obsolete relic that should disappear. Moderate Democrats must make clear that the Democratic vision is for mutual tolerance and respect for different kinds of communities and not the ascendency of one group or community over another.

A related fact that emerges from the research is that many Republicans are seriously and deeply disturbed by what seems to them a Democratic indifference and even tolerance for social chaos. This extends across a wide range of social problems – from crime to urban decay to homeless vagabonds, illegal immigrants and failing schools. For Republicans, the common thread in all these problems is a Democratic failure to insist that rules should be followed and law and order firmly upheld.

The most powerful issue in 2020 was the specter of urban riots whose importance the GOP vastly exaggerated until many Republicans were sincerely convinced that it was totally out of control….Democrats must draw a clear line regarding what they view as genuinely unacceptable violations of social order. Among progressives there is tendency to resist endorsing slogans like “law and order” because they can sound like coded appeals to racial prejudice. But carried to an extreme this is profoundly counterproductive. Democratic voters do not actually support rioting of the type in which the Antifa protesters engaged in last year or passively accept street crime and other urban lawlessness. Democrats can be tough on riots and crime and actually win support from African-Americans and Latinos who drifted notably toward the Republicans in significant measure because in 2020 they also fear and reject chaos as much as whites….
Moderate Democrats will also have the opportunity to make inroads into the 30% who are somewhat or strongly opposed to him.

The Democracy Corps report says the following about this group: About 30 percent of Republicans are [either] non-Trump conservatives [or] the ideologically and religiously moderate —with the latter forming half of this bloc that vocally opposes Trump. …they are now much clearer where they differ with Trump and much more willing to express it, even in a room full of Trump loyalists. Trump’s CPAC speech — “that’s what I hate” says one. They called out the “nut jobs” and conspiracy theorists. They don’t understand their fellow Republican’s opposition to masks and health measures. They don’t think the 2nd Amendment is sacred, oppose the display of weapons in Michigan, and want to regulate guns. When others said they appreciated what the Proud Boys did, they called them out as “not patriots.” They seemed open to a much more expansive role for government.

This is encouraging but it should not lead to misperceiving them as fully in agreement with moderates or liberals:

They do share with other Republicans an aversion to BLM and cancel culture; they too are looking for more law and order and seem uncomfortable with whites being on the defensive. They agreed that the elite media ignored the violence in the cities.

What this clearly indicates is that the same tactics that can reassure or partially neutralize the opposition of the Trump loyalists can also present an attractive alternative for these voters….

[M]oderate Democrats must recognize that they have to pre-empt the inevitable Republican distortions of their views by very clearly drawing certain “lines in the sand” about their firm opposition to rioting, crime, and allowing demands for “political correctness” to essentially require that average Americans completely adopt the language and culture of the university or face censure, contempt and condemnation.

A position of this kind will not only resonate with the 30% of non-Trumpist Republicans but will also “lower the temperature” of the Trumpist Republicans themselves and convince them that the elections of 2022 and 2024 are not apocalyptic battles against evil in which the future itself is literally at stake. To the extent that this can be achieved, it will reduce the turnout of low frequency GOP voters and enhance the likelihood of Democratic victories.”

Read all of Levison’s analysis and the original DCorps memo.

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